KUALA LUMPUR (THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - The role of appointing the new Johor Menteri Besar lies with the party that won the election, not with the Sultan of Johor, Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad said on Wednesday (April 10).
"It will take some time to appoint an acting Menteri Besar of Johor. We will try to appoint one as soon as possible."
"We have a few candidates we have to trace; very quickly, we will find him," said Tun Dr Mahathir.
When pressed if it was the Sultan of Johor who would be appointing the MB or acting MB, Dr Mahathir said: "This is a political decision."
He did not confirm if Johor exco member Sahruddin Jamal from Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia was among the candidates for the post.
"I do not know," said Dr Mahathir, who was speaking to the media after opening the 15th Kuala Lumpur Islamic Finance Forum.
Lawyer Ahmad Solehin Abd Ghani, however, has contradicted the prime minister, saying the Johor Sultan has the absolute right to appoint a Menteri Besar under the Undang-undang Tubuh Negeri Johor 1895, or the Johor State Constitution.
"Under Undang-undang Tubuh Negeri Johor, Item 3 (1), it is stated that the Sultan has the absolute right in appointing the Menteri Besar where in the issue of appointing, His Majesty does not have to act on advice from any quarters, " said Mr Solehin in a Facebook post.
"However, through 'convention', parties that won would send several names as Menteri Besar candidate to Johor Sultan for His Majesty's consideration where, in this matter, Pakatan Harapan should send the names," said Mr Solehin.
His post was shared by the Johor Crown Prince Tunku Ismail Sultan Ibrahim via his official Facebook page on Wednesday.
Breaking his silence over the row, Johor's Sultan Ibrahim Ibni Almarhum Sultan Iskandar, who is currently overseas, said he wants "certain quarters to stop making noise and fighting about politics and focus on efforts to take care of the nation instead".
"I will make the best decision for the people when the time comes," Sultan Ibrahim said in a statement posted on his Facebook page on Wednesday.
Johor MB Osman Sapian resigned from his post on Monday. Following that, Dr Mahathir said the replacement must come from Bersatu.
Dr Sahruddin, the state Health, Environment and Agriculture Committee chairman, is widely regarded as the front runner, but it is understood that the other Pakatan Harapan parties have also nominated their assemblymen for the post.
On Tuesday, Tunku Ismail had tweeted that he hoped the new Menteri Besar would not be a "yes man" to Putrajaya.
"The welfare of the people and well-being of the state must always be a priority," he wrote in his official Twitter account, adding that a decree to change the Menteri Besar had been ongoing for a while.
"But somebody else is taking the credit and mileage, claiming that he ordered it."
"His Majesty (Sultan Ibrahim) has reviewed to change the Menteri Besar months ago," said Tunku Ismail.
He added that the appointment of the Johor Menteri Besar was the absolute right of the state Ruler.